ALAN ARON, MD (1933-2017)

Co-written by:
David M. Kaufman, MD and N. Paul Rosman, MD

Alan Aron Fig 1

Alan M. Aron M.D., Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, died suddenly on December 26, 2017, just five days before he was scheduled to retire.

Dr. Aron was born in White Plains, New York.  He was an only child who was raised by his mother, a talented music teacher, who instilled in Alan a life-long love of the arts: classical piano, opera, theater, painting and sculpture.

Alan obtained his B.S. undergraduate degree at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa (1954).  Following this, he obtained an M.D. degree from Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons (1958).  He then did a one-year medical internship at Grace-New Haven Community Hospital, Yale Medical Center (1958-59).  After his internship, he returned to Babies Hospital at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, where he completed a residency in pediatrics (1959-61). This was followed by a NIH special fellowship in pediatric neurology at Columbia Presbyterian, in the Neurological Institute and Babies Hospital, (1961-64), under the direction of Dr. Sidney Carter, whom Dr. Aron referred to as “my medical role model for life.”   

Dr. Aron came to Mount Sinai Hospital in 1964, first as an Assistant Attending in Pediatrics and Neurology, rising through the ranks to become Professor of Pediatrics and Professor of Neurology in 1983.  He was one of the most senior members of the Child Neurology Society and had served on the Scientific Program Committee and the Awards Committee and directed a symposium on neurofibromatosis in children and adolescents.  He had also served as councilor of the Professors of Child Neurology.   Dr. Aron served on several committees at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, including the Student Promotions Committee, the Space Committee, the Admissions Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee, and the Pediatric Internship Selection Committee for Mount Sinai Hospital.

Dr. Aron contributed significantly to the pediatric neurological literature, with important studies on Sydenham chorea, Niemann-Pick disease and metachromatic leukodystrophy.  Most recently, he served on the New York State Panel for the Krabbe and Metachromatic Leukodystrophy Consortium, overseeing the introduction of newborn screening for these diseases, and helping to construct protocols for these devastating disorders.  

Dr. Aron was certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (Neurology; Child Neurology).  He was a senior oral examiner for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (Child Neurology) and a reviewer for a number of peer-reviewed journals (including Annals of Neurology, Neurology, and Journal of Pediatrics)    

Having spent his entire professional career at Mount Sinai Medical Center, as Director of Child Neurology for 54 years, Dr. Aron was undoubtedly the longest tenured director of child neurology at a single institution in the United States, if not the world.  During his tenure at Mount Sinai, Dr. Aron trained over 20, uniformly-excellent pediatric neurology fellows and provided training to countless other residents and fellows in many allied disciplines.

Alan always said that he loved seeing patients, teaching medical students and residents, and interacting with families.  He never considered his “job” as work but rather, “a privilege.”  He described his life in child neurology as his “passion….the most marvelous experience of my life.”   Alan’s love for medicine was surpassed only by the depth of his love for his wife Sarah (whom he always called “darling,”), his three children, their spouses, and his eight grandchildren.

There were many evenings when Alan could be found on the phone late into the night, returning endless phone calls, speaking to patients and their families, but never rushing anyone off the phone or making them feel as if they were intruding on his time.  Alan always provided his patients and their families hope, and even in the direst circumstances; he spoke with them honestly but always managing to help them see some sunlight on the cloudiest of days.

Alan was honored on December 14, 2017 with a special joint Pediatric and Neurology Grand Rounds. Additionally, he was feted at a celebratory “retirement dinner” by his colleagues and family.  Commenting on the lifetime achievement award he was presented at the Grand Rounds, Alan said “I’m a bit embarrassed by all the fuss.  I’ve never regarded pediatric neurology as work…. it’s a life engrossing activity and I’m grateful to have had this opportunity, right up until today.”  He went on to say that retirement for him was bittersweet, for he would miss his time with patients, their families, his colleagues, residents and students , but he was also looking forward to spending more time with his loving wife (of 53 years) Sarah, his children and his grandchildren.  Tragically, that wish was taken from him much too soon.  

When one thinks of Alan Aron, you think of a well-groomed man, bright-eyed, with a broad smile, and the heartiest of laughs, fully engaged in what the person with him had to ask or say. He was a real “mensch.” We have lost a true giant of pediatric neurology, and all who were fortunate enough to know Alan will feel their lives diminished by their loss.